St. Louis County officials hope to stop child abuseAs National Child Abuse Awareness Month winds down, St. Louis County officials are cautioning residents about a rise in child abuse and neglect cases.
By: Budgeteer News staff, Duluth Budgeteer News
As National Child Abuse Awareness Month winds down, St. Louis County officials are cautioning residents about a rise in child abuse and neglect cases.
County child protection social workers responded to more than 1,300 child maltreatment cases last year, a 14 percent increase over 2011, and the county is on pace for another increase this year, according to Paula Stocke, supervisor for the St. Louis County Initial Intervention Unit.
“Maybe it’s financial or economic times, stress, drug use,” Stocke speculated. “It could be a number of things.”
Over the past few years, the county has integrated the Signs of Safety program, which Stocke said can help lower future cases. The new strategy focuses on raising awareness of child maltreatment and keeping families together whenever possible.
“There’s a stereotype of the social worker just coming in to take the kid away,” Stocke said. “(Now) we look at the people in the child’s life, the family, and try to create a safety plan to keep the child in the home if we can do so safely.”
The Signs of Safety model is a strength-based strategy that involves assessing the child’s interaction with particular family members and others and setting rigorous safety standards and schedules designed to keep the child away from harm.
But social workers sometimes run into privacy issues with the model, and it doesn’t fit for all cases, Stocke said.
“It’s not always safe enough,” she said. “There are some egregious cases where we can’t do it.”
Throughout April, the county has worked to raise awareness of child maltreatment. Getting people to understand the issue is a major step toward preventing it, Stocke said.
“St. Louis County has employees that have a lot of care and concern for children and families,” she said. “First and foremost, we need to keep kids safe and preserve the family while doing so. And we need our community members to partner with us on that.”